“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” Nelson Mandela, an antiapartheid freedom fighter, said this as he fought for the rights of his people. During apartheid, the blacks were treated incredibly poorly, and it was a dark time in South African history, an era of suppression and racism.
However, the whites suffered from constant fear of rebellion from the blacks even as they were trying to suppress them, and were never truly “free”. Nadine Gordimer’s short story “Once Upon a Time” portrays how everyone suffers under a system such as apartheid, through setting, conflict, and characterization.
Firstly, the changes in the setting show how apartheid negatively affects the white neighborhoods. To begin, the neighborhood changes drastically over time. What once was a peaceful area becomes a pseudoconcentration camp, covered with “...an array of different varieties of security fences, walls and devices”(42); so that there was no room for enjoyment and relaxation. Then there is the house of the family, which is slowly covered with more dangerous security devices, which end up harming the family themselves. The atmosphere changes from a quiet, peaceful suburb to a very tense situation, as “The alarms [call] to one another across the gardens in shrills and bleats…”(40). Apartheid causes people to create dangerous and uncomfortable situations out of fear.
Next, the conflicts show how apartheid creates struggles for everyone. Throughout the story the blacks fight against the apartheid law, wanting to win back their freedom, as their children were being shot and killed. The whites are also in conflict as well, living in constant fear that the black people will break into their homes and attack them, causing them to continuously upgrade their security. Lastly, there is inner conflict; the little boy’s mother, who wishes to help
the blacks, as “...[she] could never see anyone go hungry”(41), tries to send out bread and tea, but the maid and the husband convince her to stop. Apartheid creates conflicts for everybody, with fear, anger,and guilt.
Finally, the characterizations in the story portray how everyone is a victim in apartheid.
For example, there is the maid, who is a caring but paranoid black woman. In fear of her own